Blog 28 Jul 19After weeks and weeks of campaigning across the UK, Boris Johnson was finally elected the new Conservative leader in a ballot of party members this week, and became the next Prime Minister of the UK on Wednesday afternoon.

Boris defeated Jeremy Hunt comfortably, winning by 92,153 votes to 46,656 and also became the 14th Prime Minister to be asked by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to form a government.

Anyone who has been watching the “Crown” on Netflix, which I would highly recommend, will know that her first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill.

Two big questions remain: Can he now actually deliver Brexit as promised by 31st October 2019? And when will the UK hold a general election? My money is on November…

It is fair to say that the world of politics is not for the faint hearted as we all watched a tearful Theresa May leaving the House of Commons and 10 Downing Street for the final time as the Prime Minister on Wednesday afternoon, but I wonder what legacy she will be leaving behind – possibly:

“A Prime Minister in office but never really in power”.

Closer to home, the Isle of Man remains a passenger waiting in the departure lounge waiting for the final pieces of Brexit to be delivered; only then can we start looking towards the future.

As for my own activities over the last week…

After a very busy period over the last couple of months and with no Parliamentary business now until October, the next couple of months (August and September) are normally a little quieter and should give me the perfect opportunity to finish off some of those ongoing projects.

We also have a special holiday booked for next month, which I did mention last year before we headed off to Scotland for a couple of weeks. The holiday has been saved up to celebrate a combination of Ellen’s 40th birthday and our 10th wedding anniversary in 2016, plus dare I say that I am just about to turn 50 this year, which is very worrying, if not a little scary…..

I can also assure Onchan Constituents that I will still be contactable via the usual social media platforms and by e-mail (rob.callister@gov.im) throughout my holidays, but we are not going for a few weeks yet….

Stepping back to last weekend, a big thank you to those who attended my political surgery last Saturday. Various topics were discussed, including bereavement payments, parking zones in Onchan, hospital appointments and the procurement process.

Last Saturday afternoon I joined some of my Tynwald colleagues and a few friends in the West of the island for the Peel Longboat Race, which is a fantastic community event.

Our team finished 16 out of 34, which is a fair result given the age and condition (of those in our boat) …

In the evening Ellen and I met up with various friends as we celebrated Garry and Cath’s 35th wedding anniversary in St John’s, which usually involves a karaoke machine and a lot of banter amongst some very good friends.

Last Sunday, Ellen and I were also hoping to attend the Onchan Heritage service in Abbeylands but unfortunately I just had too much work to catch up with, so my sincere apologies to my friends at Onchan Heritage.

As for this week – I am hoping to work from home over the next couple of weeks wherever possible, but I still went into the office for 8am on Monday in order to catch up with various things.

Again, it was one of those days where I was working at my desk and before I realised it was 17.00 and time to go home….

Monday morning was taken up with drafting and sending out various correspondence, which I should have sent out last week, along with a general tidy up in the office.

At lunchtime there was a Tynwald briefing (at 13.00) by Baroness Philippa Stroud and Mathew Oakley from the Social Metrics Commission (“SMC”) who are an independent Commission formed to develop a new poverty measurement in the UK, which reflects the nature and experiences of poverty that different families experience.

According to SMC, there are 14.2 million people in poverty in the UK, so I do wonder what the true figure of poverty is here on the Isle of Man.

Happy to enclose a link to their summary report, which makes very interesting reading;

http://socialmetricscommission.org.uk/MEASURING-POVERTY-SUMMARY-REPORT.pdf

The Commissions new measure of poverty includes taking into account all material resources, not just income, along with inescapable costs that some families face.

It also broadens the approach of poverty to include the assessment of housing adequacy before positioning the measure of poverty within a wider measurement framework – I am still trying to get my head around the new measurement, but I will read the report a couple of times over the next few weeks.

I spent most of the afternoon reading through various reports relating to the Eastern Area Plan and dealing with a number of Constituent and Department issues.
The rest of Monday and part of the evening was spent going through the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and DfE agenda packs ahead of two private evidence sessions and a Department meeting scheduled on Wednesday.

I was also able to do some accountancy revision work, which is part of my own personal development.

Not entirely sure how to explain Tuesday because I didn’t have to go into the office as I had no briefings or meetings to attend, so I took the opportunity to work from home.

I started work at 7am with the full intention of just spending a couple of hours working on a particular project relating to the draft Area Plan for the East.

Eleven hours later I was still working on the same project as I totally lost track of time, but the most disappointing part of the whole day was the fact that I only had around four pages of notes drafted to show for all my efforts.

It certainly brought back memories of me drafting my General Election Manifesto back in 2016, which took many months.

The draft Area Plan for the East has so many threads to it, not forgetting a mountain of documents, information and reports to read through, consider, digest and understand before I even consider submitting any further evidence to the planning inquiry inspector.

I am also discovering that there is real skill or art in researching topics, I just haven’t discovered it yet…

Collectively, Onchan only has one genuine opportunity over the next 11 years to put in place the right Area Plan for the East, especially for the people of Onchan today, but more importantly tomorrow’s generation of Onchan residents…

Any amendments and updates to the area plan have to improve the infrastructure, traffic management and service delivery in Onchan Village and the surrounding area, but without losing any of the charm and character of our Community.

I also had a number of Constituent issues to deal with before finally finishing at 19.30 on Tuesday.

Normal routine on Wednesday, in the office for 8am catching up with correspondence etc before walking over to DfE for the usual Minister and Political members meeting.

At 10am DfE had a discussion on the promenade works and what help, if any, the department can offer businesses and hoteliers at the moment and over the next 18 months.

Unfortunately, the legislation and guidelines are difficult and out of date for the current situation, and to be perfectly honest not very helpful.

We do need to find a cross-government solution to help businesses seriously affected by the promenade at the moment.

From there we held the usual board meeting, but there were only a couple of difficult decisions to be taken.

Back to the office just after 12.30 to catch up with things and to prepare a few notes before going down to the Millennium Room for the Public Accounts Committee, which got underway at 14.00 and included two evidence sessions, which were taken in private.

The Public Accounts Committee meeting finished just after 17.00, and once home I spent a couple hours on the Area Plan for the East until around 19.30.

In the office for 8am on Thursday and the first job was to go through my Manx Museum and National Heritage agenda pack.

I also had a meeting with the Head of Tourism, Angela which was a general catch up to discuss the current season and direction etc.

The rest of the morning and part of the afternoon was spent continuing to work on the Area Plan for the East. Hopefully, I will be able to publish any additional evidence to be submitted in due course.

Ellen made sure that I stopped for lunch on Thursday by taking me to our favourite Noodle Bar, just on the corner of Athol Street.

Just before 15.00 I walked over to MNH for this month’s board meeting, which finished around 18.30.

I still had a few things to catch up with at home, but I was still able to finish 20.00.

Friday was a relatively straightforward day, I was in the office just after 8am as I continued to work on the Area Plan for the East and other projects.

I had a dentist appointment at 9.30am before heading back to the office for an Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee, in order to discuss the issue of conflict and / or perceived conflict, which wasn’t an easy meeting, I can tell you.

As I finish writing this week’s Blog, I still don’t believe I have a conflict or even a perceived conflict, as the Committee’s focus last week was on the schedule of works happening on the promenade and to highlight serious concerns relating to the actual work, fencing, cracking on the horse-tram tracks and ongoing delays.

In my eyes it was an excellent piece of parliamentary scrutiny work and top marks to the DoI Minister, Ray Harmer, MHK and his Highway Team who took on board the criticism fired at them by the Committee and businesses.
Straight after the evidence session last week they went down to the promenade to do an MTTV interview with Paul Moulton and apologised for some of the failings happening at the moment, and this week the team have been speaking to businesses and hoteliers, which couldn’t have been easy…

I think my perceived conflict happened after taking evidence from businesses and hoteliers on the promenade who are now asking for a solution to be found across Government, including that of DfE where I have political responsibility for Tourism and Motorsport.

Anyway, the long and the short of story is that I have been asked step down as Chairman of this particular Inquiry by my colleagues and the Tynwald Clerk, but I certainly didn’t go willingly.

The rest of Friday was spent in the office working on projects, but I was able to catch up with various colleagues before leaving the office at 17.15.

Nothing formally planned for the weekend, so we might head to the Southern District Agricultural Show.